Saturday’s Sankei led with statistics compiled by the Tokyo metropolitan government showing that a record high number of 20,801 people died in the prefecture in March and April . As the figure was 1,481 higher than the preceding five-year average, the paper conjectured that a large majority of the 1,481 “excess deaths” may have been caused by the novel coronavirus. According to the daily, the official death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak in the two-month period was 119. Public health professionals believe that some of the 1,481 people might have been COVID-19 patients. There is speculation that these patients may not have been tested for the virus due to insufficient PCR testing capacity and may not have received proper treatment since the healthcare system was overwhelmed at the time. The paper said some of them also might have died because they steered clear of hospitals out of fear of contracting the virus. The experts reportedly predict that the number of excess deaths may have risen further in May, during which a total of 185 Tokyoites died of COVID-19, according to official data.
In a related article, Sunday’s Yomiuri wrote that the definition of “COVID-19-related death” varies among prefectural governments and major municipalities. Although most municipal governments categorized deaths of patients who had contracted the disease as “COVID-19-related” without exception, some governments categorized them differently if doctors judged the cause of death to be something other than the new coronavirus. For instance, the Saitama prefectural government has announced that a total of 13 COVID-19 patients have died of cancer and other diseases. Public health experts are reportedly calling for the central government to establish a uniform standard for COVID-19-related death so as to compile and present accurate data on the outbreak.